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Highlights of Buffalo New York Driving Tour
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Constructed between 1871 and 1875 and formally dedicated in 1876, this former city and county government building is now home only to offices of Erie County officials. The building is located on land that proved significant during the War of 1812 and subsequent "burning of Buffalo." The land eventually became a cemetery before the bodies were exhumed to make way for this government building after the Civil War. The structure served both the city and county until 1931 when the city moved to the thirty-two-story Art Deco skyscraper in Niagara Square.

2012 photo of County and City Hall in Buffalo (circa 1875).

2012 photo of County and City Hall in Buffalo (circa 1875).

The historic building (circa 1875) known as County and City Hall stood as Buffalo's tallest building for thirty-six years. When it opened, both the city and country governments maintained offices in the building. The city moved its offices to the thirty-two-story (and historic) Buffalo City Hall skyscraper (circa 1931) at Niagara Square. The landmark structure sits on a War of 1812 battle site, which later became a burial ground occupied by the deceased War of 1812 soldiers.

During the War of 1812, American Colonel Cyrenius Chapin surrendered the village of Buffalo to British troops. Rather than peacefully take over the town, the British sought revenge for Americans burning down modern-day Niagara-on-the-Lake, located in (British) Ontario, Canada. Thus, the British burnt down Buffalo. Consequently, the village later turned the plot of land where the historic City and County Building stands into a burial ground for soldiers who perished during the War. As a result, before construction commenced on City and County Hall in 1871, local officials and descendants exhumed the bodies and moved them to new grounds. 

When the building opened in 1875, it operated as the home to both the city and county governments. The building featured three floors and a seven-story clock tower, and for thirty-six years it stood as the city's tallest building. Perhaps its most acclaimed resident was Grover Cleveland, with whom the city elected mayor in 1882; one can still view his office's location from Franklin street. He went on to become the only U.S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms as the 22nd and 24th U.S. President. Cleveland is not the only U.S. President connected to the building. Millard Fillmore began his political career at the City and County Hall. Additionally, the casket of William McKinley -- shot in Buffalo during the Pan-American Exposition in 1901 -- arrived at the building after a procession through town. 

By 1920, the city population had quadrupled, which pushed the city council to pursue funding and plans to build a new structure, though it took nine years to come to fruition. Construction started in 1929 on a new City Hall in Niagara Square. When that large structure opened in 1931, the city offices moved into the new facility. However, Erie County remained in the original building; the county paid roughly $1.5 million to take ownership. The building now houses Erie County court offices and records of the county clerk's office.

Bowler, R. Arthur, ed. War Along the Niagara: Essays on the War of 1812 and its Legacy. Youngstown, New York: Old Fort Niagara Association, 1991.

LaChiusa, Chuck. "Old County Hall: AKA Erie County Hall." Buffalo as an Architectural Museum." Accessed October 1, 2020.

Raymond W. Smith, Raymond W. (April 1976). "Nomination Form: County and City Hall." National Register of Historic Places. April ,1976. (searchable database).

Image Sources(Click to expand)

By Cfiume - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,